To win minority vote, GOP has to show it's ready to battle privileged interests


Arizona State Senator Steve Gallardo (D-AZ) speaks on voting rights during a news conference at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix June 17, 2013.

Article Highlights

  • If GOP wants to win over minorities, adopt a policy that helps the disaffected by removing favoritism.

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  • Eminent domain for corporate gain disproportionately hurts minorities.

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  • Government is rigging the game in favor of the powerful and well-connected.

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  • Small-business owners are a tiny slice of a population, but many become community leaders.

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How can Republicans do better with minority voters?

The party establishment seems to think the answer begins with amnesty and more low-skilled labor — which just happens to be the policy preference of the GOP’s donor class. Beyond this, the party's top consultants offer only rhetorical tweaks around the typical GOP package of low-tax corporatism.

A better minority outreach can be found in libertarian populism.

The libertarian populist argument is that the game is rigged in favor of the big and well-connected and against the small and unconnected. This argument should be aimed mainly at the “47 percent” that Mitt Romney wrote off and denigrated: working-class voters who find it hard to get ahead.
Political analyst Sean Trende noted that a large potentially Republican bloc of voters stayed home in 2012 — working-class white voters. Some conservatives have argued that the GOP can and must win these voters.

But if the emphasis has been on working-class whites, that’s not because the Right’s populists want to exclude minorities. The emphasis mostly reflected the realization that white voters are the most likely swing voters, judging by recent elections. If Republicans aim to pick up working class voters, regardless of race, the vast majority of the voters they could pick up are white.

Fair enough, but Republicans will still need more minority voters in order to survive demographic trends.

The GOP establishment’s plan for picking up minority voters seems to be this: Sign onto President Obama’s plan for amnesty for 11 million illegal immigrants, then watch Hispanic districts turn red. The mechanics of this one are hard to figure out.

It’s hard for Republicans to appeal to minorities, as minorities, because Democrats are always better at identity politics among non-whites. But this is where libertarian populism comes in. Republicans can reach out to minorities in their roles as parents, taxpayers and small businessmen.

Start with payroll taxes. Payroll taxes disproportionately hit minority families, because they are regressive, and minorities tend to earn less. Republicans ought to slash payroll taxes. One sensible policy: a per-child exemption from the Social Security tax. After all, since parents who have and raise children are preserving Social Security’s future, shouldn’t they get some credit for it?

Hispanic families are 50 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white families to be married couples with children at home, according to Census figures from 2010. “Other race” and Asian families were even more likely to have kids. Anything that makes life easier for parents can work as Hispanic outreach.

Hispanics are more likely to send their kids to religious schools. Federal, state, and local policies can make this easier for parents. Black parents are more likely to find their kids’ public school is a disaster. School choice and education reform can help.

The prime victim of crony capitalism and corporatism — and thus the prime audience for free-market populism — is the person trying to start up a new business. The taxes, the regulations, the protectionist licensing rules all serve as barriers to entry, while the established businesses use their political connections to kill competitors.

Immigrants are twice as likely as native-born Americans to start a business, according to the Small Business Administration. If Republicans on the local, state and federal level made it a priority to clear out government hurdles to business formation, these immigrants could easily become Republicans.

Small-business owners are a tiny slice of a population, but many business owners become community leaders. Win over to free-markets every corner-store owner in an immigrant neighborhood, and the notion could spread that economic liberty is the key to the American dream.

Again, government is rigging the game in favor of the powerful and well-connected. This is a natural message to deliver to minority and immigrant populations.

One example: It’s not uncommon for African-American women to set up a business braiding hair. It’s also typical for local hair salons to use to licensing regulations to keep out these competitors. Libertarian populism demolishes this sort of anti-competitive cronyism.

Eminent domain for corporate gain disproportionately hurts minorities. In the 2005 Kelo case before the Supreme Court, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People filed a brief arguing to curb eminent domain powers. “The burden of eminent domain has and will continue to fall disproportionately upon racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and economically disadvantaged,” the brief noted. The five most liberal members of the court ruled for the big guys.

If Republicans want to win over minorities, adopt a policy framework that helps the disaffected by removing favoritism for the well-connected. If this upsets well-connected GOP donors, let them become Democrats.

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About the Author


Timothy P.
  • Timothy P. Carney helps direct AEI’s Culture of Competition Project, which examines barriers to competition in all areas of American life, from the economy to the world of ideas. Carney has over a decade of experience as a journalist covering the intersection of politics and economics. His work at AEI focuses on how to reinvigorate a competitive culture in America in which all can reap the benefits of a fair economy.


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